The bulldozer that destroyed parts of the building at the Lagos Bypass, Challenge, Ibadan, arrived the premises of the Music House some minutes past 3 a.m.
Oluseye Ojo and Chukwudi Nweje
Thousands of residents of Ibadan were in shock yesterday. Many people could hardly believe that the N800 million Music House built by popular gospel music artiste and broadcaster, Yinka Ayefele, which housed his radio station, Fresh FM 105.9, was partially demolished by government agents.
The bulldozer that destroyed parts of the building at the Lagos Bypass, Challenge, Ibadan, was said to have arrived the premises of the Music House at some minutes past 3 a.m.
After the demolition, Ayefele took to his Facebook page and wrote: “Oyo State Government did it at last … my pains, my sweat. So help me God.”
Ayefele, stated further that “We only got wind of the operation, the sound of the bulldozer. On stepping out to verify what was actually happening, the bulldozer had hit the gate. At that point, it dawned on us that they were from the state government. At that point, we were confused and we were just shouting to alert other staff on duty.”
Director of corporate affairs and promotions of Fresh FM, David Ajiboye, in a chat with journalists shortly after, said equipment worth N28 million, which the radio station took delivery of last week and had not been commissioned, was among the property destroyed during the demolition. The equipment, according to him, was meant for live broadcast and it was the latest technology in outside broadcasting.
When the news of the demolition filtered into Ibadan City, thousands of residents moved to the Music House, where they sympathised with Ayefele and workers of the radio station. The sympathisers barricaded the dual carriage way that passed in front of the structure, which grounded activities in the area.
The barricade forced motorists to make detours and pass through alternative routes to their destinations. Many commuters had to trek long distances when they could not get vehicles to convey them through the Challenge Bypass of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Many of the sympathisers decried the demolition as they rained unprintable curses against the administration of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress (APC). They carried placards
with inscriptions that criticised the state government over the exercise.
Early callers to the Fresh FM on Sunday condemned the demolition and described the exercise as callous. They said government should have waited till the court decided on the matter before the demolition.
They included a former deputy governor of Oyo State and ex-Nigerian Ambassador to Jordan, Taofeek Arapaja, former secretary to the state government, Alhaji Sarafadeen Alli, former vice chairman, Senate Committee on National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, who are all governorship aspirants on the platform of the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
The list also comprised a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Oluseyi Makinde, son of a former governor of Oyo State, Adedapo Lam-Adesina, currently representing Ibadan North-East/Ibadan South-East Federal Constituency in House of Representatives, and former caretaker chairman of Ibadan North West Local Government, Dr. Wasiu Olatubosun, who was in APC before he defected to ADC, about two months ago.
Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has described the action of Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, as a political witch-hunt and an act of executive rascality.
The organisation in a statement signed by its deputy director Timothy Adewale, yesterday said the demolition of the office complex and the forced evictions of residents is a “grave violation of fundamental human rights and contrary to international law.”
“The action is politically motivated, patently arbitrary and entirely inconsistent with international human rights standards and national laws. The action amounts to executive rascality and seriously undermines the integrity and authority of our courts. This kind of action has no place in a democratic society that is based on the rule of law,” SERAP said.
The Oyo State government had on Monday August 13, 2018, issued a three-day notice of demolition to the owners of the Music House. Before the ultimatum elapsed on Wednesday, Ayefele had instituted a legal action against the government before the state high court, sitting in Ibadan, and presided over by Justice Iyabo Yerima.
The court adjourned the case till Monday (today) for hearing and ruling on the ex parte application moved by Ayefele’s counsel, Mr. Bolanle Olayinka.
A similar notice was said to have been issued in October 2012, which was reportedly resolved between the agents of government and the owners of the structure.
Olayinka, however, told the court in the application that due process was followed in the construction of the structure, adding that relevant approvals were obtained from appropriate departments and agencies associated with land and housing in the state.
The counsel stated further that the building plan was duly approved by Ibadan South-East Local Planning Authority on June 6, 2008, and Ayefele could not have violated the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development Law 2012.
In the suit, with number I/836/18, Ayefele prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government by itself or its agents or servants from demolishing his property. He also asked the court to declare that demolition without a prior court order violates sections 36 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution.
However, Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Toye Arulogun, had last week, said the decision to demolish the structure was based on contravention of planning laws. He said the radio station was not the only one affected by the statewide exercise, as many structures that contravened the planning laws were also served the notice of demolition.
He stated further that an office complex was approved for Ayefele, but it was turned to a radio station, and that there have been several correspondences from government to the owners of the structure to regularise the building with appropriate organs of government, which the radio station has purportedly refused to obey.
Arulogun also dismissed the speculations that the government wanted to demolish the Music House based on the allegation made on a programme of Fresh FM that the state governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, owns shares in the Ibadan Central Abbatoir at Amosun Village, Akinyele Local Government Area, which all butchers in Ibadan were asked to relocate to by government a few weeks ago.
“The Music House building contravenes planning laws, which they are not controverting. From their statement, which acknowledged that the matter has been on for over a year, it is evident that it bears no correlation with the falsehood on His Excellency’s ownership of shares in the Central Abattoir, for which he has briefed his lawyers. Music House has occasioned three fatal accidents in the last nine months on which government has received petitions,” Arulogun said.
He explained that the University of Ibadan, University College Hospital (UCH), Kola Daisi University, and automated teller machines (ATMs) extension of several banks have been affected in the exercise, adding that “all radio stations were written. A local government structure has been demolished.”
Arulogun stated that Fresh FM could attempt to whip up sentiments but the fact was that the exercise was statewide, and not targeted at Fresh FM.
Ajiboye admitted that the demolition notice might be based on the fact that the staff canteen in the premises was not approved, the spiral staircase was not in the approved plan, the mast was not in the approved plan, and the fence was not in the approved plan. He told journalists on Sunday that those infractions, if any, should not warrant the demolition of the entire building, adding that relevant approvals were obtained and the Music House was approved as a business premises and the radio station is also a business.
On his part, Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy to the Governor, Mr. Bolaji Tunji, told journalists that he could not speak for the state government, since he speaks only for the governor. He said the matter had been ongoing between government and owners of the Music House for a while, explaining that the law stated that 45 metres setback was required by the physical planning authority, which the owners of the Music House had purportedly violated.
In a telephone chat with journalists yesterday evening, Arulogun refused to comment on the demolition. He said the director-general of the Bureau of Physical Planning, Alhaji Waheed Gbadamosi, would address a world press conference on the exercise today.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Oyo State Council, said it was disturbed by the demolition of the Music House.